Posner: EEOC Strikes
on Perceived Disability Case
Truckdriver lawfully dismissed
after fainting spell
In EEOC v. Schneider National Inc., (No. 06-3108) truckdriver Jerome Hoefner had driven a million miles with no accident, then passed out at work. He was diagnosed with "neurocardiogenic syncope." This is a nervous system disorder that produces abrupt drops in blood pressure that reduces blood brain supply and leads to fainting. Schneider had a policy against retaining drivers with this disorder and fired him, even though the condition was treatable through medication.
A nurse at the company's safety unit commented that anyone with this condition should be barred from truckdriving "as a matter of safety and direct threat." She had based this comment on a fatal accident involving another driver who had had the same condition. Armed with this statement the Commission claimed that Schneider mistakenly believed Hoefner had an ADA disability and violated the ADA when it dismissed him. The EEOC argued that the risk of Hoefner causing an accident was near zero.
The Seventh Circuit upheld a trial court ruling in Schneider's favor. Even though medication could control the condition, Hoefner could forget to take his pills. It was appropriate for the employer to evaluate the risk, which was not zero, and Hoefner was not in a position to evaluate the risks of his driving.